Melbourne Functional Medicine
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Experiencing end of year fatigue under normal circumstances is not uncommon, but throw a global pandemic into the mix that led to enduring months of lockdown and uncertainty, and it would be pretty safe to assume that you’re experiencing fatigue on a whole new level.
This year the idea of ‘normal’ has been turned on its head, and so much of this has been out of your control. The lines between work, school and home life have been blurred. The way you connect with your social and emotional support no longer looks the same. The things you usually do to add joy and happiness into your lives have been taken from you. To top it off, as life starts to return to some sort of ‘normal’, you now need to readapt to life once again.
The Mayo Clinic defines fatigue as “a nearly constant state of weariness that develops over time and reduces your energy, motivation and concentration.”
So if you’re exhausted more than usual at this time of year, you’re not alone.
As we’re moving towards the end of the year, we wanted to share some ways you can transform your fatigue so you can move into the new year with renewed energy.
At Melbourne Functional Medicine, we focus on the five main pillars that help support your health. In this article, health coach Jessica Cairns shares five key exercises, one for each pillar, you can use now to let go of exhaustion and feel better after a very challenging year.
Are you swinging between hope and despair, with a bit of fear thrown in? This year, many people have been avoiding facing their emotions or brushing them all off as something that hopefully will pass when things return to “normal”.
While that can be a good coping mechanism for the short-term, the long-term accumulation of stress and unreleased emotions depletes your energy, vitality, mood, and resilience, contributing to fatigue. Therefore, releasing feelings and emotions that are weighing you down can be a powerful exercise to regain some energy.
When learning to manage stress, anxiety and mental fatigue, there are many exercises that can help. Perhaps you’ve tried grounding practices such as conscious breathwork, practicing gratitude, or having intention and purpose about the type of energy you take in. These are all proven ways to help reduce fatigue.
However let's be real - as this year has been unlike any other, your emotional resilience has been tested. The reality is that many of the situations that have increased your stress levels have been out of your control, and these emotions and feelings need to be validated. You have the choice to take back the power and let go of the negative energy that’s no longer serving you. Use the following exercise to help you do just that.
Step 1: Express
Grab a pen and a piece of paper, and find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.
Take a few deep breaths, then put pen to paper and write down everything that’s causing you stress or overwhelm. Let it ALL out! Some areas you might consider are; work, relationships, family, health, covid, finances, human suffering, and injustices or frustrations you might be feeling and experiencing.
Avoid editing or censoring yourself - write whatever comes to you. It doesn’t matter if your writing is legible. The point is to spill your thoughts and feelings onto paper, so pay little attention to how messy your writing looks.
Write about how you feel about these situations, then consider which of these you can act on, which ones you have control over and which ones you might be able to let go of or find some support to manage.
Step 2: Release
Once you've written everything down, it's time to release and let go of all you've been holding on to.
Take the paper you’ve written on, and with the intention of releasing all your pent up draining thoughts and emotions, either rip it up, shred it, or burn it, then discard it in some way that suits you. You could throw the paper in the bin, bury it in the ground, or even flush it down the toilet!
See this process as a releasing ceremony. You could even say as you discard it ‘I release these draining thoughts and emotions’ or something to that effect.
You should feel a sense of release and relief through this process. If not, there may be other things you need to express and release, so repeat the exercise as many times as you need.
When it comes to nourishing your body through food, it might be worth considering if you consume food in a way that’s serving you as a source of energy. Eating in a rushed, distracted, or stressed state can inhibit digestion and nutrient absorption, which can have a significant impact on your energy levels.
If this sounds like you, bringing some intention to your mealtime is a powerful opportunity for you to improve your energy and transform your fatigue while having some fun and finding joy in the process. The experience around mindful eating can bring so much more nourishment than the chemical components of the food you’re eating!
You needn’t make fancy meals to make meals a special occasion. It’s mostly about adding some sparkle to meals you’re currently making while bringing your full attention to the moment.
Simply turn off Netflix, put your phone on silent and in your desk drawer, sit at a table or in a space where you don’t usually work, get out your finest crockery and drink from the fancy glass, throw on your most uplifting playlist and start to get intentional about the energy you bring to this meal. You could even light a candle to set the mood.
As you sit down for your meal, take a few deep breaths to get into a relaxed state, and take a moment to appreciate the food in front of you. Then, as you eat, enjoy all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures your meal has to offer. Take your time with each mouthful, making sure you’re chewing, tasting and smelling each bite.
Become mindful about how this food is providing you with nourishment, energy, and vitality. Enjoy taking the time to enjoy your surroundings, environment, and find something to be grateful for at this moment.
You could even use this time with friends or family to talk about how grateful you are for the food, or perhaps ask each other what you’re grateful for most at this time.
For the better part of this year, gyms have been closed, and exercise has been limited to an hour or so outdoors and incidental movement. The type you do as a result of getting about your day has stopped. Being more sedentary not only impacts your physical health - it also has a significant impact on your mental health and your energy levels. Now that freedoms have been lifted, and the sun has started shining, it’s a great time to improve your energy levels by moving in nature.
The wonderful thing about moving in nature is that it has the ability to instantly transform you out of the sympathetic nervous system stressed state to the parasympathetic nervous system relaxed state. Regular movement can help your 'fight or flight’ system be less reactive, and meditative movement can improve your mood, energy, and the way you feel.
The process of activating the five senses while walking in nature helps bring you into the present moment and distracts your mind ensuring better control of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and therefore the energy you carry.
Try this transformational exercise of moving in nature to feel the benefits of transforming your fatigue. The Japanese call this shinrin-yoku, also known as forest bathing - the art of taking in the forest environment as a way of relaxing and improving health. Fortunately, if you don’t have a forest nearby, you can still reap the benefits of forest bathing by being in green spaces, so head to your local nature reserve or park.
A five senses mindful walk focuses on taking in the scenery by using all of your senses. Leave your phone at home, or at least on ‘do not disturb’ so you can avoid distractions and remain present.
As you're on your walk, look for and acknowledge 5 different things you can see in your environment.
In your mind, name them and deeply consider how they look. Then start to draw your attention to what you can smell, are there fragrances or smells in your environment that you can identify?
Notice the temperature of the air, is it hot or cold, dry or moist?
What sounds can you hear? Are you able to hear the birds chirping, kids playing, or dogs barking in the background, can you hear traffic or sounds of construction?
Finally, bring some awareness to the sensation of your body moving. Take notice of how each foot feels as it strikes the ground. As you do this, you could even count your steps in a 1-2, 1-2, or left-right, left-right fashion.
When you notice you've been lost in thought, this is an opportunity to acknowledge those thoughts and bring your awareness back to your senses and start again.
If there’s one thing you've had plenty of time to do this year, sleep would have to be up there. However, have you noticed that your quality of sleep has suffered? Being in lockdown has likely increased your screen-time significantly, decreasing your ability to move and connect with others. Add to this additional stress and anxiety you might have experienced as you've navigated uncharted waters around work, family, and finances, and the quality of your sleep can decline.
It’s no secret that setting up a consistent sleep routine helps you get a restful night’s sleep. However, if you practice a solid sleep routine and are unable to fall asleep quickly, or are waking up feeling unrefreshed, this will have a major impact on your fatigue levels. When your sleep quality reduces, so does your ability to process emotions, think logically and so your resilience takes a dive.
The following body scan relaxation exercise is a way to help you let go of the stress of the day, so you can sleep soundly and wake up feeling refreshed, leading to you feeling more resilient and energised.
There are many different ways you can do a body scan. There is no right or wrong way. The aim of an evening body scan is to bring awareness to changes in your physical and mental state and help relax and prime your mind and body for deep, restful sleep.
Bring awareness to how this exercise changes your sleep readiness, and if you turn this into consistent practice, see how over time it transforms your quality of sleep.
For you to complete this transformational exercise we've created a guided body scan resource for you. Simply download here (click and you'll be taken to the file to download - no need to sign up), and have a listen tonight while you're preparing your body for sleep.
You may have heard the phrase, “fill your own cup first”. What does this mean to you? Do you spend time prioritising your own self-care, or is self-care something that makes you feel selfish?
For many, self-care can be challenging, particularly those who have the responsibility of caring for others. However, when it comes to transforming your fatigue, finding time for self-care is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Self-care is the ability to switch off, be present, and do something for your own enjoyment and nourishment. So when adding to your fatigue-fighting toolkit, self-care is the cornerstone to ensuring you live a happy, healthy, and vibrant life. It's all about making the time and space to tune into what gives you energy.
If you aren't making space for some type of daily self-care routine, you'll be left feeling stressed, exhausted, and overwhelmed. Whereas doing one thing daily, no matter how small to start with, will help you feel more energised, fulfilled, and happy, and will go a long way towards transforming your fatigue.
Here are 4 tips to help you identify a self-care routine and stick to it.
Here are some examples of how the team at MFM practice non-negotiable daily self-care:
Courtney - a nightly skincare routine
Rebecca - morning yoga & mediation, journaling at night
Char - mindful walking in nature, tech-free!
Bee - morning Sam Harris meditation, a tech-free walk in her lunch break
Jabe - a long morning shower, 2 saunas a week
Melissa - a walk on the beach tech-free each morning, getting in bed by 9pm each night
Jessica - early into PJs, a relaxing cup of tea, and early to bed with a guided meditation
We hope these exercises bring you much relief from what has been a draining year for all of us. Let us know in the comments - which exercise will you try today?